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Sunday, 19 November, 2000, 15:21 GMT
McDonald's dumps GM-fed meat
GM protest outside McDonald's in Munich
Protesters against GM feed outside McDonald's in Munich in July
Fast food chain McDonald's has promised not to use meat reared on genetically modified (GM) feed.

McDonald's UK, which uses 30,000 tons of beef every year, made the decision in response to public concerns about the safety of the so-called "Frankenstein" foods.

The company says around 2.5 million people a day eat at one of its 1,100 restaurants in the UK.

Some farmers use GM feed to increase the muscle bulk of animals or improve their milk yield.

McChicken Sandwich
McDonald's chicken suppliers already use GM feed
But anti-GM campaigners say the public cannot be sure that meat fed on GM feed is safe and they point to the BSE crisis as an example of complacency in the meat industry.

A spokeswoman for the company said: "McDonald's in the UK has taken the decision to move away from the use of animal feed containing genetically modified ingredients.

"We have therefore requested that our suppliers seek non-GM sources of feed.

"Our chicken supplier already uses feed containing soya meal of Brazilian origin, which is principally non-GM.

"We are continuing to work with our suppliers of beef, pork, eggs and dairy products to identify sources of non-GM animal feed, although sustainability remains a concern."

'Listening to concerns'

She added: "We are listening to concerns expressed by consumers seeking reassurances about the safety of food produced in this way.

"We will continue to monitor public opinion and scientific developments."

The giant US-owned burger chain made a stand during the height of the BSE crisis by taking British beef off the menu.

greenpeace logo
Greenpeace have a massive campaign against GM food
The McDonald's spokeswoman told BBC News Online: "We don't use any GM products or ingredients in our meals and it is a natural extension of that policy not to use GM feeds."

She said it was almost impossible to guarantee all animal feed was free of GM ingredients but said this was an "industry wide" problem.

The use of GM animal feed is governed by European Union legislation.

Eleven GM varieties of maize are authorised for use in feed in the United States but only four of these may be legally used in the EU.

But there is even a difference in interpretation of the EU legislation.

Britain and Holland say the use of US maize gluten feed is not governed by the GM regulations but its importation and use is banned in France.

'No hint of a problem'

A spokesman for the pro-GM pressure group, CropGen, said: "GM ingredients are considered safe for human, never mind animal consumption and they continue to be used in many parts of the world, as they have been for several years, without a hint of a problem."

He said: "The argument of the pressure groups is that meat from an animal fed on GM products is in some way different from that of an animal fed on non-GM products, or that the meat itself should be considered as GM. This is simply untrue.

"The genes and proteins introduced into a crop by GM meet the same fate when the crop is eaten as the tens of thousands of other genes and proteins present in the crop - they are destroyed in the stomach."

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See also:

26 Feb 00 | Wales
GM ship sets sail after protest
06 Apr 99 | Food under the microscope
Genetically-modified Q&A
06 Apr 99 | Food under the microscope
GM food: A political hot potato
17 Feb 00 | Sci/Tech
Farmers 'abandon GM crops'
07 Sep 00 | Talking Point
Is our food poisoning us?
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